MANILA - Malacañang denied Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte had a hand in the ouster of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque challenged congressmen to prove that Duterte called them up to vote for any particular candidate for the speakership as “the president did not do that.”
“The President did not interfere. This was purely a decision of the House of Representatives,” Roque said in a press briefing in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo secured the speakership with 184 affirmative votes while 12 lawmakers opted to abstain in a dramatic turn of events on the day of the President's State of the Nation Address that played on national television. She was the sole nominee for the position.
Alvarez was supposed to be ousted during the opening session in the morning, but his allies abruptly adjourned the session to stop other members from raising a motion to declare the Speaker’s post vacant.
Several lawmakers have surmised that the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, was behind Alvarez’s ouster.
In February, Duterte-Carpio slammed Alvarez and called him an "insecure fat sleaze" for allegedly calling her a part of the opposition when she formed a separate regional political party.
Alvarez, stalwart of the President's party PDP-Laban, had denied the Davao mayor's allegations, saying somebody might have just misheard him.
Reports also said Duterte-Carpio had called up lawmakers to seek the ouster of Alvarez and installation of Arroyo as Speaker.
Duterte’s involvement in the supposed plot, however, remains unclear.
Roque made this assertion in reaction to a statement of detained Senator Leila de Lima that “bringing back the corrupt and the plunderers is Duterte’s biggest achievement in this year’s SONA.”
“Only 8 years ago, Arroyo was also a prominent name in the SONA, but as the subject of then President Noynoy Aquino’s first SONA where he promised to go after the Arroyo kleptocracy,” De Lima said in a dispatch Wednesday.
“Eight years hence, Arroyo is back in power, her record of plunder and corruption notwithstanding. The joke has become a self-fulfilling prophecy: the people voted Duterte, but it was Arroyo who won. This is the bargain the Filipino got, a buy-one, take-one ukay-ukay deal.”
De Lima said Arroyo’s “House coup” has shown the “cracks in an alliance of shifting loyalties, and the weaknesses in the Duterte camp.”
“And as every one among their followers unites behind charter change and federalism, there is no doubt who, after Duterte, will be one of the primary beneficiaries of the new order.”